It may only be midseason, but Friday night’s battle between Sandy Creek and Fayette County had the feel of a playoff game. The Patriots secured a hard-fought 68-50 victory in the boys game, while the Lady Tigers were victorious 55-13.
The boys matchup looked more like a postseason battle than your average regular season game. The Sandy Creek gym was packed to the brim. The fans were loud and the players fed off the energy.
“No question about it, this is what we want,” said Sandy Creek coach Willie Reese. “We want our guys involved in games like this.”
The game was way closer than the final score indicates with Fayette pushing the Patriots for every basket. The Tigers are a much better team than they were the last time they hit that court at Sandy Creek’s showcase earlier in the season.
“Fayette is a good team. They’ve improved a lot from the shootout to now,” said Reese. “I give the credit to Coach (Andre) Flynn. He does a good job, it just happened to be our night.”
For the Patriots, the key was being able to put away their opponent, something they weren’t able to do at times against top competition this season.
“We lost some games over Christmas because we didn’t finish those games,” said Reese. “Our guys are learning. They’ve got to take care of the ball and they’ve got to attack the basket.”
As a whole, it was a strong effort from the whole roster with the scoring load evenly distributed.
“Everybody played well,” said Reese. “Our thing is to play hard, run hard, and be good teammates.”
Creek started the game with a 5-0 burst, but Fayette jumped right back, keyed by a pull-up jumper from Kenny Lewis and a pair of Isaac Kellum threes as they grabbed an 8-7 lead. The Patriots surged back in front to stay with a seven-point run to finish the frame. Elias Harden started it with a three-point play and Myles Jenkins pulled down a rebound and threw up a desperation shot at the buzzer for a 14-8 lead.
Javon Jackon extended the advantage with a three to start the second before the Tigers put on a 10-2 run. Lewis sparked it with a baseline bucket, followed by two from Shawn Foxbrennen and a feed from Omar Howard to Sam Jimenez as the lead was sliced to 20-18. The Patriots responded with a run of their own, 8-0, to finish the half. Jenkins hit from deep, then fed Jackson for the half’s final bucket and a 28-18 lead.
Kellum came out of halftime hot, scoring the Tigers’ first seven points, capped by a two-handed jam off a Lewis assist. The inside-out play of the Patriots kicked into gear, including strong play in the paint by Januari Smith. Christian Turner and Jackson amped up the pressure, attacking the rim consistently. Turner added a three before Fayette’s Phillip Young scored to finish the third quarter at 46-35.
Sandy Creek kept up the pace in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a breakaway slam from Evan Jester as they padded their advantage. Jaylon Cheffin added a three for Fayette late in the 68-50 Sandy Creek win.
Christian Turner led the Patriots in scoring with 17 points. Isaac Kellum led the Tigers with 17, followed by 12 from Kenny Lewis. Shawn Foxbrennen tallied 12 rebounds for Fayette.
The Lady Tigers are a team with title aspirations. They knew they couldn’t take it easy on a young Sandy Creek squad decimated by injuries to two starters.
Fayette came out hot on both ends of the court, stringing together a spotless first quarter. Darryl Langford and Kayla Smith hit threes on their first attempts of the game, the pair combining for much of the offense early on, either creating their own shots or one feeding the other. The Tigers brought defensive intensity, preventing Sandy Creek from getting any good looks at the basket. With Sade Harper’s bucket, Fayette grabbed a 23-0 lead at the end of the first frame.
Sandy Creek kept battling. A Domonique Fuller dish to Amara Owoh got them on the board to start the second quarter. Shailla Head notched four points in the frame for the Patriots and Quenecia Washington tallied the last points of the half. Fayette’s offense kept rolling with Smith and Langford again hitting from deep. Christa Jones for two and Whitney Williams for three helped push their lead to 38-8 at halftime.
The Tiger defense kept up their suffocating work in the second half as they pulled away for a 55-13 victory.
Kayla Smith led the way with 26 points for the Tigers.